The rugged Big Sur coastline is one of the more impressive places in California. It is located in an ideal area that draws in visitors from the bay area as well as northern and southern California. Everyone comes for a different purpose, but all can agree the area is spectacular and nothing captures that beauty better than a nice photograph. That’s where we come in!
Phil and I met a group of 13 eager photographers in Carmel-by-the-Sea for a full day of photography education up and down the Big Sur coastline. Everyone comes with a different level of experience and Phil and I are eager to help everyone move forward with their photography in any way we can.
Our first stop of the day is the historic Carmel Mission. This old church and its beautiful grounds makes for a really amazing place for learning the basics of exposure and depth of field. There’s so much to see here on a grand and small scale. Patterns in flowers, vibrant colors, textures, and more…everyone is almost instantly immersed in the search for that perfect shot. Phil and I do some basic introductions on the types of camera settings so folks can get more comfortable with their camera in manual mode…but it’s best and easiest to work with people on an individual level while they are working on a shot that they’ve found. Everyone came up with a lot of really nice images of the various patterns and shapes throughout the area. Phil and I would try to point out compositional ideas here and there as we came across the students working in the field…whether it be the juxtaposition of two different textures, or plants, or the way the curves and patterns of a group of leaves create a nice aesthetic.
Time flies here, and I always find myself wishing we could spend all day here…there is so much happening to photograph and an hour and a half barely covers the time before we have to move on. OUR second stop is a brief pull out near the Bixby Bridge. This old stone bridge is a marvel of engineering as well as a beautiful part of the landscape we photograph. It’s a fun place to learn how the polarizing filters work here as well as talk a little about how some light can make for much more dramatic monochrome images…
From Bixby it’s a beautiful winding drive down to McWay Falls, a lovely little pocket beach that boasts a waterfall that flows over the cliffs right onto the beach! The vibrant turquoise waters gives this spot a real tropical feel, and people love to get those postcard shots of this little cove. Phil and I work with the students on using grad filters or ND filters to help slow down the exposures and get some movement in the water…silky water shots are always really nice….and even though the lighting at this time of day isn’t the best for getting super long exposures, we’re able to shot the class how to combat those situations and still get the desired results even in bright light.
Our last stop is the keyhole on Pfieffer Beach. During the winter months of December and January the setting sun lines up perfectly with a hole in the rock creating an awesome beam of light. This is a tricky place to shoot with a high level of contrast. Phil and I work with the class to get set up with a few different compositions, and explain the ways to capture this really extreme dynamic range…by changing angles or bracketing exposures. It felt like the whole area was on the beach enjoying this awesome light show. From what I’ve seen this was the best display of this natural occurrence that has happened this season. For the light to shine in the arch there can be no clouds on the horizon, and on the California coast that can be a problem with the marine layer and fog that rolls in on most evenings. Tonight was perfect and our class was treated to quite the spectacle. After the light beam faded there were still long exposures and other things to work on for a few minutes before we set off back to Carmel.
Once the show was over, we piled back into the van and returned to Carmel, and everyone’s waiting vehicle. It was an awesome day for sure. Phil and I would like to thank everyone for the great time and being such eager learners!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Phil, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.